Saturday, July 29, 2006

Logical Fallacies, Part 4: Unequal Comparison

The unequal comparison inappropriately links unequal ideas. Such comparisons greatly compromise the credibility of the writer. The two examples below appeared in the writing of students in my writing seminars:

The Mayor’s social policies are no better than Hitler’s.

The manager’s attempt to reorganize our department is tantamount to a hostile takeover.

The first example likened an American mayor to a leader whose social policy called for genocide. No American mayor has such a draconian policy.

The second example is flawed in two ways:
  1. Since the manager already is an insider running the department, she should not be compared to an outsider attempting to acquire a company against the will of its staff, which is the definition of a hostile takeover.
  2. Reorganizing a department, even if it is against the staff’s will, does not share the magnitude of an organization-wide hostile takeover.

Once I pointed out the logical fallacies, the writers revised their sentences as follows:

The Mayor’s social policies are insensitive to the interests of the city’s minority groups.

The manager’s attempt to reorganize our department is rash because it contradicts our corporate mission and strays from the sound managerial approaches of other departments.

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